A new study reiterates more women in the police force would make it more representative, and raise the quality of policing.
A recent study by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has drawn attention to an imbalance:
· Women make up nearly half of India’s population, but only a little over six per cent of the police force in the country.
· Twelve states have an affirmative action programme in place to ensure that at least 30 per cent of the personnel are women (as per the guideline from Central Govt.).
· Yet, only in three states has the percentage moved into double digits — Tamil Nadu at 12.42 per cent, Himachal Pradesh at 11 per cent and Maharashtra at 10.48 per cent.
· Chandigarh with 14.16 per cent female presence in the force is the leader among Union territories, while Assam, with less than one per cent, provides the worst example.
· Less than 1% of policewomen in India occupy senior ranks and almost 90% of them serve as constables.
· One state even has guidelines that say women must not be deployed into roles usually held by male officers.
· Outnumbered by men, policewomen often tend to internalize and accept the bias against them.
This situation needs to change to ensure gender parity in a crucial public service and to raise the quality of policing itself. The police force has remained a male preserve because the authorities, despite making noises to the contrary, have sought to keep it that way.
Though the Constitution envisages India as a liberal democracy, policing has not shaken off its feudal and colonial legacies.
CHRI found that a pervasive view of policing as a job for men was an impediment to policewomen at every stage of their careers. It said authorities often fail to understand the contribution women can make to effective law enforcement.
How will presence of WOMEN contribute?
· The presence of women could have softened and humanised the hard and often crude image of the police that has been perpetuated through popular culture.
· Globally, there has been a rethink on the form and substance of policing and the view that the police force should reflect the composition of the society it serves has gained ground.
· Evidence suggests that the presence of women in the force leads to a marked reduction in police brutality, including custodial crimes, improves the police-public interface and enables better reporting of crimes against women.
· However, affirmative action alone is unlikely to help raise women’s presence in the police.
What should be the way forward ?
· As the study by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative also points out, their role in the force itself should be reconceptualised and necessary changes brought in in recruitment, retention and promotion policies as well as service conditions to make policing an attractive career option for women.
· Mindsets and attitudes within the force will also need to change.
· Women officers are typically relegated to desk jobs or tasks that shield them from frontline policing. Such assignments away from core law-enforcement duties are an impediment to career advancement. Gender segregation should be actively discouraged and women personnel must be made part of all aspects of policing, including crime investigation.
· Police forces should bring out the virtues of women and not push them to be ‘poor copies’ of male police.
Other issues !
Separate cadres :
Many state police forces continue to have separate cadres for men and women at state-level entry points, which means that very few vacancies for a particular rank are reserved for women, which affects their career growth upwards, as greater number of seniority and promotion lists are apportioned to male officers.
(A common cadre for recruitment is an urgent policy change that is being suggested by those working for a more gender equal police reforms. A novel approach by the Meghalaya Police saw a Transparent Recruitment Process in 2012 based on computerized tests in a completely gender neutral manner, which saw large number of women apply. In the latest recruitment drive, half of those in the Sub-inspector rank were women.)
All-women police stations :
Many states in India operate all-women police stations, staffed exclusively by policewomen to tackle crimes against women and encourage women to report crimes in an environment free of male-bias.
(The concept doesn’t work well; it segregates women into a separate group. Kerala, which has four women-only police stations, has seen bigger benefits from making sure five female officers are assigned to each of Kerala’s 475 police stations. From traffic control to community policing, interviewing suspects and registering complaints, women bring in better techniques !!! )
· While largely the police departments’ promotions systems are mired in internal problems, the prevalence of the separate cadre system for men and women at the subordinate ranks stunts their career growth.
· As only a select number of posts at the Head Constable, Sub-Inspector and Inspector ranks are assigned to women police, there are fewer opportunities for promotion.
· A male constable can typically rise up to the rank of Sub-Inspector, very few women constables get promoted.
· As a result, women are concentrated only in the constable and head constable positions. Out of a total 396 DGP/Spl/DG/ADGP posts, a mere 16 are women; only 20 out of 607 DIGs; and 1,234 out of 31,754 Inspectors.
- Working hours are also non-conducive for women police officers. A recent reveals that “90 % of police station staff, across states and across police station types, presently works for more than eight hours a day”.
- Women were often found to be working more than 12 hours a day and often in postings outside their home towns which made their dual roles within home and work very difficult. This was particularly acute in posts that handled women’s help desks and also all women’s police stations.
One of the gravest limiting factors and a gross human rights violation is the lack of even basic facilities like toilets for women in the police stations. This problem is even worse for Women Traffic Police. Worse is the discrimination of basic facilities for the IPS and state cadre officers. The new police headquarters building in Rajasthan has women’s toilets only for the use of IPS cadre officers. Under the Modernization of State Police Force Scheme, the Government of India issued guidelines in February 2013, asking state governments to provide for toilets, crèches, and restrooms for women police personnel.
Similar discrimination between cadres is also seen in maternity policies. While IPS officers are entitled to 180 days maternity leave and up to 2 years of childcare leave, state cadres get leave ranging from 135-180 days across states. Recently Haryana and Bihar introduced two year child care leave ( Rajasthan and Jharkhand do not), but in practice it is very difficult to avail.
Child care facilities are practically non-existent for women in police forces. The Parliamentary Committee observed that “for the fiscal year 2012-13, funds to the tune of Rs. 1.22 crore were released for this purpose, whereas, utilization was to the tune of Rs. 59 lakh only
Negative attitudes are severely compounded by prevailing culture of sexual harassment at the workplace, though a large part of it goes under reported for lack of complaint mechanisms or insufficient knowledge of the women personnel. In focus group interviews conducted by CHRI, 7.5% of respondents in Kerala and Haryana, talked about sexual harassment they faced.
The culture within the police services is inherently patriarchal leading to negative stereotyping of women police officers and entrenched gender bias. This forces women to work extra hard to dispel those notions. A recent study conducted in Tamil Nadu corroborated this notion that women are perceived negatively by male police officers and a wider notion that police work is performed more efficiently by men
This skewed gender ratio in the police force has not gone unnoticed.
· Representation of women was addressed for the first time in the 2006 Model Police Act which called for “adequate gender representation in the composition of the police service” and required “each police station to have a Women and Child Protection Desk staffed, as far as possible, by women police personnel, to record complaints of crimes against women and children and to deal with the tasks relating to administration of special legislations relating to women and children”.
· A Second Committee constituted in 2013, looks at the issue of diversity and gender equality in police forces. New laws relating to sexual crimes against children and women were passed in 2012 and 2013 respectively, giving exclusive functions to women police in the registration of complaints and recording of victim statements.
· The has taken up the issue of women in policing in 2012 and 2013 and made several significant observations and recommendations.
The National Conference for women in police has repeatedly stressed the need for increased representation of women and recommended several measures including 33% reservation, special recruitment drives, a common cadre for men and women, and better facilities for women
· The Ministry of Home Affairs has advised state governments repeatedly to recruit at at least 33% women to the police force. Many states have a reservation policy for women ranging from 15% (Uttarakhand) to 35% (Telangana). These states are: Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bihar, Sikkim, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Tripura, Telangana, and Uttarakhand. Even then, these targets have not been met and the states which had implemented reservations long ago only have about 12% women. Maharashtra has had a reservation policy (30%) in place since 1971, but women police are barely pushing 10% of the force. Tamil Nadu has attained 12% after 26 years; Rajasthan only 7% in the same period; and Odisha is not even at 10% after 23 years.
Some positive figures !!
§ Meghalaya has almost doubled its numbers of female police officers from 174 in 2008 to 329 in 2014, which is overall an increase of 1%.
§ Haryana has doubled its numbers from 1358 in 2008 to 2734 in 2014. This amounts to a three times increase in percentage terms from 2.7% to 6.5% in 2014. In 2011-12, Haryana added an additional 1000 additional officers.
§ Jharkhand has seen an increase from 1701 to 2906, particularly between 2013-14, when it added an additional 1000 officers which increased the percentage from 3.4% to 5.15%.
§ Kerala has been pretty consistent over those years with no significant increase or decrease. Currently there are 3067 women, constituting 6.42% of the force.
§ Rajasthan has seen a three times increase in women police officers from 2,662 in 2008 to 6,568 in 2014. In percentage terms, it has almost doubled from 4% to 7.11%
Moral of the Story !!
Clearly, much more needs to be done to bring down the structural barriers and make women an integral part of police force through more evolved policy measures and their effective implementation and monitoring, including police reforms. Gender equality is a constitutionally enshrined right and it is time that the right is fully realized.